Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light: Of Love and Death

Posted in Reviews on January 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Swallow the Sun When a Shadow is Forced into the Light

The immediate question, of course, is what happens? What happens when you force a shadow into the light? As per the memorable, layered screams of the title-track to Finnish melodic death-doomers Swallow the Sun‘s seventh full-length, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, “It rips through your chest and burns like a fire.” Fair enough. That chorus sweeps in from an acoustic-led verse and thanks in part to backing from string sounds — that is, whether it’s strings or keyboard — gives a sense of grandeur that very much works to define what follows across the 52-minute/eight-track Century Media release. A largesse of production value helps as well, and that’s nothing new for Swallow the Sun, who since their 2003 debut, The Morning Never Came, have melded emotional resonance, elements of extreme metal — Mikko Kotamäki has made a trademark of switching fluidly between screams, growls and clean singing, and stands among the finest metal vocalists currently active — and clarity of sound into a melancholic vision of death-doom that has only become more their own with time.

Cumbersome as it is, the album’s title derives from the lyrics to “Broken Mirror” from founding guitarist Juha Raivio‘s Trees of Eternity project, and much of the material here deals with the personal loss of Aleah Stanbridge, who was that outfit’s vocalist as well as Raivio‘s partner, and who passed away from cancer prior to the release of their 2016 debut, Hour of the NightingaleRaivio would subsequently form Hallatar and release 2017’s No Stars Upon the Bridge (review here) using her poetry as lyrics. There is an according sense of longing and mournfulness to When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, which follows the late-2015 triple-album, Songs from the North I, II & III (review here), that can be heard in songs like “Firelights,” “Upon the Water” and even the guttural apex of the penultimate “Here on Black Earth.” Swallow the Sun are no strangers to working in an upfront emotional context, and one of their great assets as a band has always been their ability to balance aspects of extremity with a very human heart.

When a Shadow is Forced into the Light cannot and should not ultimately be separated from the circumstances surrounding its making any more than it should be from the rest of Swallow the Sun‘s catalog. In both it and its companion EP, Lumina Aurea (review here), there isn’t so much a feeling of catharsis — that comes later — as a palpable grief. Summarized best perhaps in the direct address in the lyrics to closer “Never Left,” there is little mistaking the in-the-thick-of-it feel of genuine mourning, but as the band — Raivio (who also handles keys and jouhikko, a bowed instrument used in Finnish traditional music), Kotamäki, guitarist Juho Räihä, bassist Matti Honkonen, drummer Juuso Raatikainen and keyboardist Jaani Peuhu, as well as guests here and there — move through “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light” and into “The Crimson Crown” and “Firelights,” neither do they let go of their craft. A complex style of songwriting is fitting for the richness of their sound, and they bask in it, but as noted, the title-track has a hook, and so do “The Crimson Crown,” “Firelights,” “Upon the Water,” “Clouds on Your Side” and “Never Left.”

swallow the sun

“Stone Wings” and “Here on Black Earth” are directed otherwise structurally, but even they have standout moments, whether it’s the throat-ripping screams backed by melodic lines in the latter or the sudden volume swells of the former. And you know, I take it back, “Stone Wings” does have a hook, as well as Raivio‘s jouhikko while it makes its way to its engrossing, double-kick-bolstered crescendo. The point is that although there’s an obvious emotional consumption happening throughout When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, that’s brought into what Swallow the Sun do. They’ve always had a wistful sensibility to them. They’ve always dealt with loss as a working theme, and in some ways, the work they’re doing here is very much consistent with where they’ve been in the past, but the foundation they’re working from is different, and it’s real. The grief is real. The sadness is real. The loss is real. It’s performative by its very nature — as in, it’s an album and people are performing on it — but there’s no sense throughout that Swallow the Sun are doing anything other than seeing Raivio work through this pain.

The tagline for the record has been “love is stronger than death,” as posted by the band in discussions leading up to the release. If that’s their summary of the theme, fair enough — “Never Left” would seem to be the point at which that idea most comes to the fore — and it’s easy to argue that their ability to find balance between this point of view and an already established songwriting modus speaks to the experience and skill of the band as a group. When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is never more mired than it wants to be, never held back. The title-track and “The Crimson Crown” — both over seven minutes long and the only songs to hit that mark aside from “Never Left” as the corresponding bookend — form an initial salvo that characterize so much of the rest of the material.

In its immersive blend of acoustics, string sounds, differing vocal approaches and the smoothness of its overall craft, the song “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light” seems to accomplish everything Swallow the Sun brought to Songs from the North I, II & III in a single track. It is a cinematic arrangement and poised execution that nonetheless has its basis in an emotionalism that’s still raw. But what the song and indeed the rest of the album that shares its name do so well is to take that rawness and shape it into something encompassing and beautiful. If that’s what it means for love to be stronger than death, if that expression is what comes out of the brutality of the loss that’s behind its making, then When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is its own best argument for the maxim’s truth.

Swallow the Sun, “Firelights” official video

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Swallow the Sun Post “Lumina Aurea” Video; EP out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

swallow the sun

There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, while Finland’s Swallow the Sun have always ranged far and wide throughout their career — their last album, 2015’s Songs from the North I, II and III (review here), was a purposefully-overwhelming triple album comprised of acoustic, extreme and a-little-bit-of-both installments — their new EP, Lumina Aurea, which arrives through Century Media just ahead of the full-length, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, is still a departure. Its vocals arrive in Latin-language spoken word plus some backing black metal-style screams and a chorus — Marco I. Benevento of The Foreshadowing provides the spoken parts — and the song itself is a 13-minute stretch of atmospheric intensity that’s different from anything the Jyväskylä outfit have done in the past. Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik guests on bukkelhorn, adding particularly Scandinavian flair, and the whole affair sounds way more Roadburn than Wacken, if you know what I mean.

It’s a fascinating turn for Swallow the Sun to make as they stand on the cusp of 20 years as a band. If I could sing and scream like Mikko Kotamäki, I’m not sure I’d ever let anyone else singswallow the sun lumina aurea on a record, ever, even background vocals, but he relinquishes the forward position to Benevento and recedes into the mix in best service to “Lumina Aurea” itself, and the ambience that unfolds is every bit as cinematic as the accompanying video shows it to be. I’ve heard the upcoming LP, and as always, it has its sense of atmosphere, but if you’re wondering why Swallow the Sun would release it on its own concurrent to the album, all you really have to do for an answer is listen to the two side-by-side. “Lumina Aurea” is distinct enough to earn its place as an EP separate from the album, and the album’s tracks flow well without 13-minutes of Viking ambience tacked onto the end of them (or the beginning!) because there’d really be no place else to put it. As much defiance of expectation as Swallow the Sun have done over their time, they’ve always kept to a consistency of mood in their releases — generally dark — and Lumina Aurea holds to that as well, but is clearly doing so on its own terms.

The EP is comprised of the full and instrumental versions of the track and is out now. When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is due Jan. 25. The video for “Lumina Aurea” was directed by Aapo Lahtela and Vesa Ranta at Kaira Films, and you can see the full credits as well as other info from the PR wire under the clip below.

Please enjoy:

Swallow the Sun, “Lumina Aurea” official video

SWALLOW THE SUN – Lumina Aurea (OFFICIAL VIDEO). Taken from the EP “Lumina Aurea”, out December 21st, 2018. Order now: https://swallowthesun.lnk.to/LuminaAureaID

Finnish melancholy death-doom metal masters Swallow The Sun have released their epic standalone 14 minute track called “Lumina Aurea”. The song features Wardruna’s Einar Selvik and The Forshadowing’s Marco I. Benevento and marks the band’s darkest and most sinister piece of music they have ever released. Watch the music video for “Lumina Aurea”, which was created by Aapo Lahtela and Vesa Ranta at Kaira Films, HERE.

“‘Lumina Aurea’ is a song I would never want to write in my life,” Juha Raivio states about the track. “It is an open, bleeding black wound from the last two and half years of my life. But I had to write it out. I could not back down from it. The way I wrote and recorded ‘Lumina Aurea’ was so rough emotionally and physically that I think I will never talk about it public. I know this road will go on forever as a part of me, but I have also made a peace with it-that I will never have peace with it. And that the life and the journey here must still go on for a while for those of us remaining. I knew that if I would go any deeper on that road with the album as I did with ‘Lumina Aurea,’ the path would not end well. So, I quickly realized that instead I will write an album that will manifest loud and clear that after all, ‘Love is always stronger than death.’ I wanted to find that angle for ‘When A Shadow Is Forced into the Light’. This album is like a weapon for myself. A burning light, a burning torch. Victorious and proud.”

Directed and produced by Aapo Lahtela & Vesa Ranta.

Swallow the Sun:
Mikko Kotamäki: vox
Matti Honkonen: bass
Juuso Raatikainen: drums
Juho Räihä: gtr
Juha Raivio: gtr/keys/jouhikko
Jaani Peuhu: keys

Music & Lyrics: Juha Raivio
Mixed by: Linus Corneliusson / Fascination Street Studios Mastered by: Tony Lindgren / Fascination Street Studios Screams and Growls recorded at Black Chandelier, Helsinki Guitars and bass recorded at SoundSpiral Audio by Juho Räihä

Latin translation by Claudia Greco

Guest Musicians:
Bukkehorn by Einar Selvik
Latin spoken parts by: Marco I. Benevento
Latin choir by: Marco I. Benevento & The Foreshadowing

“Mors fortior quam vita est, amor fortior quam mors est”

Swallow The Sun Upcoming Tour Dates:
February 7 – Helsinki, Finland – Nosturi
February 8 – Turku, Finland – Apollo
February 9 – Jyvaskyla, Finland – Lutakko*
February 14 – Tampere, Finland – Klubi*
February 15 – Oulu, Finland – Teatria*
February 16 – Kuopio, Finland – Henry’s Pub*
*w/THE MAN-EATING TREE

More dates to be announced soon!

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Swallow the Sun Set Jan. 25 Release for When a Shadow is Forced into the Light

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

swallow the sun

Finnish death-doomers Swallow the Sun will release a new 14-minute single next month featuring guest appearances from Einar Selvik of Wardruna and The Foreshadowing‘s Marco I. Benevento, so presumably I’ll be posting about them again shortly, but the news that their next full-length, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, is due out Jan. 25 is particularly welcome. Their last album was early 2016’s multifaceted triple-disc Songs from the North (review here), for which they toured in the States alongside Amorphis — best lineup, why didn’t I go? Oh right, I suck — and while the PR wire promises more of the standard heft-laden downerism, the fact that the album’s title, again, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, is essentially the opposite of the band’s moniker in terms of the image evoked, says to me maybe some subtle shifts are in store around that central consistency.

I’ll look forward to finding out, either way. Here’s news from the PR wire:

swallow the sun covers

SWALLOW THE SUN ANNOUNCES NEW ALBUM WHEN A SHADOW IS FORCED INTO THE LIGHT

Finnish melancholy death-doom metal masters Swallow The Sun announces the release of their new album When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light, which is scheduled for release on January 25th, 2019 via Century Media Records.

The band will be releasing their standalone 14 minute epic single track “Lumina Aurea” on December 21st. The track will be available both digitally and as 12″ EP vinyl version.

Fueled by personal loss (the album title has its origins in Trees of Eternity’s “Broken Mirror”) and powered by the will to continue, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light showcases the group’s ability to maintain its signature sound while expanding upon horizons and diving deeper into the crevasse of doom-death metal. Even though the single and the album are conceptually connected, they are musically completely different. While “Lumina Aurea”, which features Wardruna’s Einar Selvik and The Foreshadowing’s Marco I. Benevento, marks the band’s darkest and most sinister piece of music the band has ever released, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light follows a more positive approach and continues in the vein of previous albums – first-rate death-doom in the typical style of Swallow The Sun.

Swallow The Sun have announced their first shows of 2019. See below for all upcoming tour dates. More dates to be announced soon.

When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light tracklisting:
1. When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light
2. The Crimson Crown
3. Firelights
4. Upon The Water
5. Stone Wings
6. Clouds On Your Side
7. Here On The Black Earth
8. Never Left

“Lumina Aurea” tracklisting:
1. Lumina Aurea
2. Lumina Aurea (instrumental version)

Swallow The Sun Upcoming Tour Dates:
February 7 – Helsinki, Finland – Nosturi
February 8 – Turku, Finland – Apollo
February 9 – Jyvaskyla, Finland – Lutakko*
February 14 – Tampere, Finland – Klubi*
February 15 – Oulu, Finland – Teatria*
February 16 – Kuopio, Finland – Henry’s Pub*
*w/THE MAN-EATING TREE

http://www.swallowthesun.net
https://www.facebook.com/swallowthesun
https://twitter.com/swallowthesunfi
http://www.centurymedia.com/
https://www.facebook.com/centurymedia

Swallow the Sun, “Rooms and Shadows” official video

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